California Cowboy By Jim Nichols
DON’T READ THAT STUFF MARTHA. THAT COWBOY IS FRUIT LOOPS!
The title reflects what you will be saying after you read my
scribbles. But I’m laying it on you straight without embellishment or spin. I married the most beautiful Texas woman fifty years ago. Yep, stole her right out from under her college boy friend. I’m not saying “shallow” but I did drive a newer car than he did. We both graduated college and with diploma in hand she taught school for three years while I polished off my selective service requirement. I then went to law school became a lawyer and drug enough meat to the fire to free her up to run the house and raise our three kids. She paid all the bills and managed all the money. She never missed a softball or soccer game. She sat in for me on most of those screechy concerts where the horns are flat and one or more drum sticks are dropped. Although my wife, Dana, liked to throw down a wine or two in the evenings, she never missed church.
We bought a cattle ranch in Kern County, California twenty years ago. My wife ran our outfit. Besides the book keeping occasionally I could get her on a horse to help my neighbors and/or me move cows from one pasture to another. After 50 wonderful years married to that fox, she was diagnosed with colon cancer and upped and died on me. It was three months from diagnosis to death. She never complained or significantly altered her activities right up to the last. I was, and am devastated. I feel cheated she went first and left me behind to do my own laundry.
“Enough with the fluff” you are murmuring. “Get to the point!” Okay here it is. I’m not superstitious and have never believed in ghosts, goblins, or booger stuff. I don’t watch t.v. about haunted houses and attempts at documenting paranormal activity. I’m a Christian with a traditional God and Jesus belief. I have been taught, and believe, that when one dies the soul goes to Heaven or elsewhere leaving behind the earthly body. Simple!
My late Mom once said to me, Jim when you see Mourning Doves outside your house that means someone has died or will die soon. “That’s crap Ma!” I exclaimed. “I agree” she said, then told me her Texas mother told her that. The morning before my wife died I walked outside to feed my horses and there were four Mourning Doves sitting on our telephone line making that mournful whooo whoooing. I took their picture. Rarely do I see those birds in our area.
My wife loved tortoises. She obtained two, twenty years ago from a pet store. They came from North Africa. One now weighs at least 50 pounds. She had a special enclosure built for them so they could not escape and they never did until after she died. I’ve rounded them up twice since she passed and I cannot figure out how they got out. No digging holes and all closed gates. Did she let them out? And if not, her why would someone come at night to liberate these big reptiles into my back yard and horse pens?
Shortly after Dana died my six year old granddaughter told her mother she saw Nana (Dana)in her bedroom. My daughter recorded her statement with her phone. When I heard about it I watched the play back and was astounded. I then quizzed Isabel (granddaughter); “when did you see Nana?” “Yesterday.” “What was she wearing?” “Her orange sweater.” “Did she talk?” “No.” “What did she do?” “She smiled and left.” “Were you frightened?” “No.” Wow!!! I’m assuming she dreamed it but she is so matter of fact recounting it, it is startling.
Grieving I try to stay busy. Before my wife’s memorial I pondered what to say to her friends and family at the memorial. I puzzled over the picture I would put in the newspaper along with her obituary. Before writing her obit I was at my ranch putting a quad away in one of our 40 foot containers where I keep vehicles and equipment. Pulling into the container THERE IT WAS ON THE FLOOR. One photograph of my gorgeous bride staring at me with that beautiful smile. It gave me a chill and made me cry. I tenderly picked it up, kissed it and put it in my shirt pocket. To this moment I am totally baffled by that occurrence..... I have never seen a photo on any of the floors of any of my buildings or containers at the ranch. I do not know how it got there and how long it had been there but it was clean and not wrinkled. We have hundreds of pictures of the ranch, the kids, the grandkids, horses, cattle, the neighbors and me…... but that day, only one picture, and it was of her. It was as if she were saying “I’m with you and will always be with you.” The L.A. Times published the picture along with her obit.
So, do I now believe in booger stuff, super natural, ooey gooey stuff? No. I’m still a straight forward God and Jesus guy and assume there is an explanation, but I am truly baffled by what I have just shared with you.
“Damn Martha, I told you not to read that spooky crap. That cowboy is totally fruit loops!”
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